Hungry Hungry Hime: Princess Connect! Re:Dive

Anime based on gacha games generally have one overarching goal: get you to play the original mobile game. It’s unclear whether this approach is lucrative, and if anything, it comes across more as a serious flex to say, “Look at how much money we can put into making these gorgeous-looking anime adaptations. In this arena, Cygames is one of the kings. Between strong anime versions of Granblue Fantasy and Rage of Bahamut, among others, it’s exceedingly clear just how much money they have to throw around, given the gorgeous animation, strong writing, and excellent direction seen. 

In this respect, Princess Connect! Re:Dive is another success story. Despite the fact that it’s clearly meant to lure viewers into spending their paychecks, there’s no denying the ridiculously high production values and effort, as it ends up being one of the best-looking and most enjoyable anime of 2020. 

Princess Connect! Re:Dive takes place in a fantasy world and centers around an eclectic group of adventures who end up forming the Gourmet Guild, which is dedicated to trying out delicious foods all across the land (and not afraid to slay a monster or ten to get some grub). Leading the charge is Pecorine, an ultra-strong princess knight with a bottomless appetite, and joining her are white mage Kokkoro, the cat-eared black mage Karyl, and the strangely amnesiatic human boy Yuuki—the last of whom is clearly the “player character” from the game. 

I went into the Princess Connect! Re:Dive without any foreknowledge of the original game, and only with a faint awareness that it was getting high praise from animation buffs. I don’t know how much is based on the source material and how much comes from the anime staff putting in their own spin on things, but there were two main impressions I came away with:

First, the general world and premise are standard fantasy-mobile-game fare—a setting that ostensibly has an overarching ongoing story, but is more a vehicle for you to fall in love with the characters (and want to roll for them once you play the game). Second, the character work is so strong and consistent that it makes the first point more palatable. Major and minor characters alike are ridiculously charismatic, and well-traveled tropes like the moeblob, the tsundere, the yandere, and even bland male lead are portrayed in fun and refreshing ways. Yuuki’s characterization in particular is impressive, as the anime leans so hard into the concept of him being a potato that it falls through the ground and ends up on the other side of the world.

It might just be because I’m an adventurous eater and that I love food-themed anime and manga, but the very idea of the Gourmet Guild holds a lot of appeal to me. It gives plenty of opportunity to animate some amazing-looking dishes, and there’s a certain heartwarming vibe that comes with basing an adventuring team on “eat tasty things.” That innocence also becomes a narrative point, as the day-to-day pursuit of something so simple and pure connects with the motivations and inner conflicts of different characters. Sure, the big-picture story is pretty convoluted, but I still want to see Pecorine and the others succeed within that ridiculous world.

After I finished the anime, I looked up the original game, which is actually the second iteration of the Princess Connect! mobile game franchise—hence the Re:Dive appellation. Apparently, the two versions are tied together in some way, and the anime itself hints at this heavily. It’s not particularly clear what the connection is, and feels more like an attempt to simultaneously introduce Princess Connect! newbies like myself and inform veteran players alike of what’s going on. Ultimately, I don’t think it matters too much.

There’s a lot that’s pretty typical of the Princess Connect! Re:Dive anime, and by the time the final few episodes hit, you’ll know which of the countless numbers of cameos are probably the fan favorites. Still, even as the show is driving its sales pitch at you at full throttle, it’s still a superbly well done anime that fires on all cylinders. In a sense, efforts like these not only shatter the age-old stereotype that anime based on video games are terrible, but it’s even possible that anime like Princess Connect! Re:Dive are better than the games.

Gamblers’ Paradise: “Uma Musume: Pretty Derby”

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic may be the most prominent cartoon about horse girls, but Uma Musume: Pretty Derby is bringing a different angle. Instead of wide-eyed ponies, it’s human-horse hybrids in the vein of anime catgirls. Instead of a children’s show reminiscent of magical girl shows, it’s a strange hybrid sports/idol anime focused on racing and dancing. As a result, Uma Musume: Pretty Derby veers closer to Girls und Panzer than Twilight Sparkle and friends.

Having watched the first two episodes, Uma Musume: Pretty Derby succeeds in being a sports show. It’s got an underdog main heroine with untapped potential, plenty of characters (perhaps too many) with a variety of personalities and competitive styles, and a sense of forward progress while keeping intrigue strong. For example, just what is up with protagonist Special Week’s adopted mother? She gives me a “mom from Aikatsu!” vibe; maybe that’s not a coincidence given the idol aspect of Uma Musume.

Taken on its own, the anime seems like a reliably strong show. However, much like Girls und Panzer, the point of potential concern is what happens when one looks beyond the cartoon itself and into what it’s supposed to advertise and accomplish. For Girls und Panzer, it’s possible glorification of the military. For Uma Musume, it’s gambling.

Uma Musume is a moefied version of horseracing, a popular betting sport. But it’s also part of a multimedia franchise from mobile games juggernaut Cygames, makers of Granblue Fantasy. When it comes to lootbox/gacha systems that drive players to empty their pockets, Granblue Fantasy is one of the grandmasters, and the chase for those slim 1% chances for ultra-rares is especially enticing for those vulnerable to gambling addiction. And yes, there’s an Uma Musume: Pretty Derby mobile game on the way.

So essentially, there’s a dangerous final form of Uma Musume that could become a reality someday. This monstrous version would involve going to the racetrack to watch and bet on the ponies while also playing Uma Musume and trying to get the right gacha gifts for your favorite horse girls. To use an ancient internet joke, they put a slot machine into your betting, so you can gamble while you gamble. It’s not gotten to this stage as of yet, but I have my eye out to see where Uma Musume will go.

This post was sponsored by Johnny Trovato. If you’re interested in submitting topics for the blog, or just like my writing and want to support Ogiue Maniax, check out my Patreon.